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Balladur, Seeking Youth Vote, Goes From Prim to Primal

March 26, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ France’s prim prime minister, hitchhiked to a political appearance Saturday when his helicopter was forced down, lending credence to his campaign to convince the country he’s not so boring after all.

Four weeks before the presidential election, Edouard Balladur is trying to regain standing in polls that he once led and capture some of the youth vote that has largely gone to fellow conservative Jacques Chirac.

Balladur, 65, a silver-haired gentleman born in Turkey, is often portrayed in cartoons as a pasha held aloft in a sedan chair by aides. His tight-lipped style and cautious policies, once seen as reassuring, have turned off a large portion of the electorate aged 18-24, casting their first votes for president.

Balladur was headed to Maillane, near Arles in southern France, but fog forced his helicopter to land in a field not far from there. The premier and his group were rescued by a driver ``a little surprised to see us there.″

The adventure gave him a chance to show the nation there’s something more to the man in the Savile Row suit. The premier said he was ``delighted″ by the experience. ``You must always learn to take risks,″ he told reporters.

Balladur has slid to third place in most polls, trailing behind Chirac and the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin.

The April 23 first-round vote will replace Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, who is ending his second seven-year term. The second round between the top two candidates will be held May 7.

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